I was wondering – is there air on planet Mars? It’s one thing to say is there life on Mars? We’ve been asking that big question of generations. But can we use the word “air”? There’s a thin atmosphere on Mars but can you call it air? The rover that’s there will be listening for sounds in what is 95% carbon dioxide. That kind of atmosphere on Earth would be our worst nightmare.
Let’s look at the definition of that everyday word – air. Air is the mixture of gases which forms the Earth’s atmosphere and which we breathe. No way could we breath on Mars. That gas we depend on, oxygen is down to about 0.1%. Taking that basic definition then Mars does not have “air” in the common sense.
I’m going down this rabbit hole because of the references to Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter that is being prepared for flight. This innovative flying machine has been landed on Mars and is being referred to as a helicopter. Now, a Helicopter is a heavier-than-air aircraft supported in flight chiefly by the reactions of the air on one or more power-driven rotors on substantially vertical axes.
Oh dear, there’s that reference to the air as per planet Earth. I may be being an aviation pendant, but this could be the time to revisit the definition of helicopter and change the word “air” to “atmosphere”. Afterall, if there’s a gas of sufficent density then flight is possible with the right equipment.
Ingenuity could also be known as a Rotorcraft. It undeniably has two rotors, so it must be a craft supported in flight chiefly by the reactions of an atmosphere. Since we are entering a new era of aviation as a human built extra-terrestrial vehicle makes a controlled flight for the first time, revisiting definition could be appropriate.
Then Airworthiness is then better expressed as Flightworthiness. Maybe, Aircraft ought to be Flightcraft. There’s a history here given that a craft that hovers is called a Hovercraft. Which is more important? What it does or what it does it in?
Whatever the nuisances of these internationally used definitions in English, the wonder of this fantastic achievement is not lost on me. This moment only happens once. The first time the immense challenges of controlled flight on another planet are overcome we are in a new era of aviation.
Flying in a hostile cold, thin atmosphere will be amazing. Take-off and landing several times will be astonishing. What magnificent engineering design. Rotors spining at 2400 rpm. This robotic rotorcraft will test the feasility of flying on another world. Imagine what that will open up. From me, all the best good fortune to the team who made this possible. Lift-off and come down in one piece. Looking foward to seeing the pictures.
 Annex 8 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation